Misdemeanor Drug Cases in Texas
Misdemeanor possession of marijuana (marihuana) (POM) and possession of controlled substance (POCS) cases can carry collateral consequences outside those specifically assigned to Class A or Class B misdemeanors. The Texas Health & Safety Code contains the Texas Controlled Substances Act that categorizes various drugs into “penalty groups". In particular this blog details consequences for persons charged with possessing substances that fall into Penalty Groups 3 and 4. Sometimes you will see offenses for POCS involving these Penalty Groups called “Possession of a Dangerous Drug" or PODD.
Typically, the maximum punishment for a Class B misdemeanor is a maximum of 180 days in the county jail facility and a fine not to exceed $2,000 or both. A POM case in an amount under two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. A first offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor. A POM charge in an amount more than two ounces but less than four ounces is a Class A misdemeanor. The range of punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is a maximum one year in the county jail facility and a fine of $4000 or both. Several POCS cases are Classified as Class A and Class B misdemeanors. Examples of Penalty Group 3 drugs include Xanax (alprazolam), Codeine, and Hydrocodone. If you do not have a prescription and are found to possess any of these Penalty 3 drugs (or the many others listed in the statute…see TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.104) you could be charged and convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. Penalty Group 4 drugs are generally liquids and the most common are liquid codeine and promethazine. Possessing less than 28 grams of a Penalty Group 4 drug is only a Class B misdemeanor.
In order for the State to prove “possession", they must demonstrate that the accused (1) exercised control, management, or care over the substance, and (2) the accused knew the matter possessed was contraband. Your drug lawyer must be able to mount a defense to one of these two prongs in a possession case. If convicted, not only are you subjected to the punishment ranges discussed above, there could be other unforeseen consequences. For example, if you are a student attending a university, federal law prohibits the issuance of Federal Stafford Loans to those convicted of drug charges. In the Texas Transportation Code, any conviction for POM or POCS also results in a driver’s license suspension for 180 days (one year suspension if under the age of 21).
When charged with a misdemeanor drug case, there are ways we can keep a conviction from occurring. First, we can go to trial and attack the elements of the offense and prevent the State from meeting their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, we can negotiate your case with the State to a plea agreement that does not involve a conviction. Typically, these agreements may involve drug classes and community service. Deferred adjudication may also be an option in a situation where the accused agrees to do community supervision for an agreed amount of time and the maximum length is two years for a misdemeanor. At the end of the probation period, the drug case is then dismissed and no guilty finding is ever made. Different counties treat drug cases differently. In Travis County and the Austin area, drug cases are met with less strict punishments for first time offenders. Indeed, the City of Austin will write you a “field-release" citation for possessing small amounts of marijuana and you do not even get arrested. Other counties in the hill country such as a Kerr County POM or a Kendall County POCS may be met with a little more aggressive State action. People in Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and the adjacent counties have a tendency to be a bit more conservative than their fellow Texans in Austin.